PHILADELPHIA -- Exactly one year later, the Wizards are in a similar position -- reeling in the stretch run of the season and with a game against the worst team in the NBA on tap. Lose to the 76ers tonight, and the 2015-16 season could be a wrap despite the mathematics (Coverage starts tonight at 7 on CSN Plus and NBC Sports Live Extra).
In 2015, the Wizards marched into Wells Fargo Arena after having lost a game they had no business losing on the road to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the worst team in the West at the time. It was by 20. Two days later, on Feb. 27, they met a Sixers team that was so bad that the 89-81 loss felt like at least 20.
The difference then, however, was because of a 22-8 start to the season, the Wizards were firmly planted in the playoff picture at 33-26. The only question that remained was their seeding in the East.
That's not the case now, after they inexplicably lost at the Chicago Bulls on 109-104 on Wednesday to drop to 26-30. A team that was downtrodden and riddled with injuries to most of their best players scored 57 in the first half alone and ended the game shooting 50%.
"It's a wasted opportunity that we should've taken advantage of," point guard John Wall said. "But we didn't. It happened to us before in this situation."
Last week, the Wizards lost to the Miami Heat in a similar fashion. It was the third game in three nights, but it was another depleted team (minus Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade) and they still were blown out 114-94.
There's no such thing as an easy victory that can be chalked up prematurely for the Wizards. They could have the edge in tiebreakers with the Bulls and Heat with the better head-to-head record in a tight playoff race but instead are 1-1 and 2-2 in those season series.
It's a self-destructive streak that coach Randy Wittman is at wit's end about. If a team is down and almost out, the Wizards have a tendency to bring them back to life.
There were the 22- and 37-point loses to the lowly Brooklyn Nets last season. Earlier this season, the Charlotte Hornets were dead to rights twice on their own floor and eventually lost both (one by scoring just six points in the fourth quarter) and trail in a seasons series that they should lead 3-0.
Turn back the clock two years, when the Boston Celtics walked into Verizon Center with this starting five: Phil Pressey, Jared Sullinger, Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. The Wizards, in the midst of a playoffs-or-else edict from owner Ted Leonsis and struggling go finally get over .500, were beaten in overtime 113-111.
How did this happen? Rajon Rondo was out. Pressey, an undrafted rookie point guard who never had more than seven points in a game up to then, went for 20. Wall had a hollow triple-double with 28 points (on 29 shots), 11 rebounds and 10 assists because he turned it into a game of one-on-one. The Wizards dropped to 20-21.
Even on Feb. 5 this season, the Wizards didn't close out the game properly with Philadelphia when a 34-point lead was trimmed to single digits late in the fourth quarter.
Make no mistake, the Sixers (8-49) are historically bad. Their wins have come vs. the Phoenix Suns (twice), L.A. Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers and Nets.
The only team that currently has a winning record among that bunch is Portland (30-28). If the Wizards aren't careful, they'll be able to add themselves to this list and the loss to the Bulls would pale in comparison.